Suzuki calls Helin comments offensive

  • Apr. 6, 2015 11:00 a.m.

Canadian environmental activist icon Dr. David Suzuki is firing back after comments made by Eagle Spirit Energy boss Calvin Helin suggesting Dr. Suzuki, and not the Haida Nation, is orchestrating Haida Gwaii opposition to his company’s pipeline proposal.Helin, whose First Nations-led company hopes to transport crude oil by pipeline to a tanker terminal on the Hecate Strait and on to Asian markets, told the Observer earlier this month that, in effect, Haida Gwaii’s opposition to the pipeline project is led by Dr. Suzuki.”There is a common joke for First Nations in the Rupert area that David Suzuki runs Haida Gwaii,” Mr. Helin said.Dr. Suzuki, in a letter to the Observer, took issue with Mr. Helin’s analysis calling it shocking, offensive and shameful. “It is offensive to suggest as Helin does, that the Haida so lack in culture and knowledge that I or anyone else could shape their decisions,” Dr. Suzuki stated.”Helin should be ashamed of himself for revealing such contempt for other indigenous people and their leaders.”The encounter between Mr. Helin and Dr. Suzuki stems from a meeting with Eagle Spirit Energy earlier this month in Prince Rupert where a number of First Nations threw their support behind Eagle Spirit’s plan.A group of hereditary chiefs, elders and elected officials in Lax Kw’alaams came forward to support the project and called claims that all nations on the coast oppose the project as simply wrong.”The suggestion that there is unified opposition to the Eagle Spirit oil pipeline proposal on the north coast is ridiculous … community members are not stupid and need to have access to the facts so they can judge for themselves. The last thing we need is environmental organizations dictating how we should steward the traditional territories we have already protected for the last 10,000 years,” said Elder George Bryant, with three hereditary chiefs taking issue with opposition statements made by Coastal First Nations director Art Sterritt and elder Murray Smith.”Neither Murray or Art Sterritt’s Coastal First Nations organization speak for our tribes or community and they should stop pretending they do. We were not consulted by those groups for any real opinion. We can do our own thinking and looking after our own land,” read a statement by hereditary chiefs Cylde Dudoward, Donald Alexcee, Alex Campbell and Randy Dudoward.Mr. Suzuki, co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990 and longtime host of CBC’s Nature of Things, contends that Mr. Helin’s comments about Haida opposition fly in the very face of the Lax Kw’alaams similar demand for respect.”So it is shocking to see Calvin Helin, president of Eagle Spirit Energy, repeat as a “joke” about the Haida, the very attitude that Lax Kw’alaams leaders decry,” Suzuki wrote.In a letter to Eagle Spirit last May posted on the council’s website, the Council of Haida Nation (CHN) states they will not support any pipeline due to the risks associated with tanker traffic.”The Haida Nation strongly opposes any oil developments on our coast, regardless of who the proponents are,” reads the letter.Mr. Helin told the Observer earlier this month that Eagle Spirit was disheartened over this lack of support from CHN, but added there is very little anyone can do to stop the flow of oil reaching the west coast.”If we bury our head in the sand, we just say no to everything ,we are going to end up in a situation where it just happens, we will have no say in the environmental standards and models on how the oil is shipped. The best way to be involved in it is to be proactive and shape what happens,” said Mr. Helin.Dr. Suzuki’s foundation’s mandate is to promote sustainable fishing, combating climate change and is active in attempting to protect the ocean from large oil spills.

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